The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has focused everyone’s attention on the hidden world of viruses. The emergence of new variants, such as Beta and Delta, affects everyone: some variants spread more quickly and some are less affected by vaccines. But why?
Teams of scientists around the world, including the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, are tracking the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, but to understand why the mutations they report have the effects they do requires an expert understanding of the details of how SARS-CoV-2 functions.
In response to this Sarah Iannucci, an MSc in Medical Visualisation and Human Anatomy at The Glasgow School of Art (School of Simulation and Visualisation) and University of Glasgow (School of Life Sciences), set out to explain the hidden workings of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, particularly those on the viral spike protein.
Sarah built the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Mutation Explorer, an interactive web application using illustration, animation and interactive 3D models to explain why SARS-CoV-2 mutations have the effects they do, with users able to view and interact with visualisations of variants of concern and their characteristic mutations. The work was unveiled on 9 September as part of The Glasgow School of Art’s Postgraduate Showcase.
The SARS-CoV-2 Spike Mutation Explorer was developed in collaboration with COG-UK, and with it Sarah aims to provide the context needed for non-experts such as the media to understand the technical reports on SARS-CoV-2 variants presented in the COG-UK website and then share them with the wider public.